Category Archives: Christianity

Sabbath: a Rest toward God

From one of my favorite preachers/teachers, Alistair Begg:

“The key to the Sabbath is not inactivity.  The rest which God has ordained is a rest from labor and a rest toward Him (emphasis added)…  to be released to the worship of the glory of God…a great day for acts of mercy….to enjoy the privilege of God’s presence, the study of God’s word, the fellowship of God’s people.”

Listen here

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Gospel Centered

From John R. W. Stott’s The Message of Galatians, here his commentary on Galatians chapter 1, verse 7:

To tamper with the gospel is always to trouble the church, because the church is created and lives by the gospel.  Indeed, the church’s greatest troublemakers (now as then) are not those outside who oppose, ridicule and persecute it, but those inside who try to change the gospel.  It is they who trouble the church.  Conversely, the only way to be a good churchman is to be a good gospel-man.  The best way to serve the church is to believe and to preach the gospel.

Tenebrae

Like many others, my church held a Tenebrae service last evening.  It was a somber service, accented by growing darkness, as we remembered the final events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion.  Calvin College’s resource library  provides a good guide for Tenebrae observance (which influenced our service).  From their site:

The service of Tenebrae, meaning “darkness” or “shadows,” has been practiced by the church since medieval times. Once a service for the monastic community, Tenebrae later became an important part of the worship of the common folk during Holy Week.
 Tenebrae
A Service of Shadows
The service of Tenebrae, meaning “darkness” or “shadows,” has been practiced by the church since medieval times. Once a service for the monastic community, Tenebrae later became an important part of the worship of the common folk during Holy Week. We join Christians of many generations throughout the world in using the liturgy of Tenebrae.
Tenebrae is a prolonged meditation on Christ’s suffering. Readings trace the story of Christ’s passion, music portrays his pathos, and the power of silence and darkness suggests the drama of this momentous day. As lights are extinguished, we ponder the depth of Christ’s suffering and death; we remember the cataclysmic nature of his sacrifice as we hear the overwhelming sound of the “strepitus”; and through the return of the small but persistent flame of the Christ candle at the conclusion of the service, we anticipate the joy of ultimate victory.
Recommended, and included in our service was Luci Shaw’s poem:
“Judas, Peter”
because we are all
betrayers, taking
silver and eating
body and blood and asking
(guilty) is it I and hearing
him say yes
it would be simple for us all
to rush out
and hang ourselves
but if we find grace
to cry and wait
after the voice of morning
has crowed in our ears
clearly enough
to break our hearts
he will be there
to ask us each again
do you love me?
It is good to be reminded that we, too, are guilty….
But because of the Lamb of God we are forgiven and we have Hope.
None other Lamb, none other Name,
None other hope in Heav’n or earth or sea,
None other hiding place from guilt and shame,
None beside Thee!
My faith burns low, my hope burns low;
Only my heart’s desire cries out in me
By the deep thunder of its want and woe,
Cries out to Thee.
Lord, Thou art Life, though I be dead;
Love’s fire Thou art, however cold I be:
Nor Heav’n have I, nor place to lay my head,
Nor home, but Thee.
                                                       Christina Rosetti
Here is a link to my choir singing “None Other Lamb” last night.

The Cleansing Fountain

 

Written by William Cowper in 1772, in many hymnbooks known as “There is a Fountain.”  The three verses sung here:

There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
And when this feeble, faltering tongue 
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, 
I’ll sing His power to save.
Thou dying Lamb, thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
‘Till all the ransomed church of God
Are Saved to sin no more.
The two leaders in the video are well known in Sacred Harp singing circles, David Lee of Hoboken, GA and Syble Wooten Adams of Adler, AL.

Jesus as Lord

At least since early January I have been focused on The Lamb of God.  I have known what that means, and Who that is for most of my life, but it became especially real when, during his difficult and prolonged hospitalization, my brother William, one very challenging night, after I had read several specifically requested scriptures to him, fighting for breath, said to me, “You know, the focus of Heaven will be the Lamb of God.”  To share that desperate time, from our physical perspective, with someone who clings to the Lamb is awe inspiring and affirming: truly a witness.

From my pastor, Jeff Garrison’s sermon today, on the perfect Lamb of God, our Savior, Jesus the Christ:

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt was a German pastor and theologian in the early decades of the twentieth century. He isn’t well known, but had a great influence on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth (who are better known). In one of his sermons, which has been collected in a book titled Action in Waiting, he says:

We do not gain much by just accepting that Christ died and rose again. Many people believe this, but nevertheless go to hell. This belief is of no help unless you and I experience Jesus as Lord. It is not the worst if some people are unable to believe that Christ rose from the dead – at least they still regard it as something tremendous, too tremendous to glibly confess. The sad thing is that so many people today claim to believe it, and yet it means so little to them. It has no effect in their lives.

Make No Mistake

From Affirmations of God and Man: writings for modern dialogue, edited by Edmund Fuller, 1967:
Seven Stanzas at Easter
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules reknit, the amino
    acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers, each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the eleven
    apostles;
it was as His flesh:  ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered out of
    enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of
    earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not paper-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of time will
    eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in the dawn
    light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed by the
    miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
                                                              John Updike

Solemn Facts

Yesterday Jennifer found a printout of an excerpt from Pink’s book, Satan and His Gospel,  in my brother’s office.  From it:

“The gospel of Satan is not a system of revolutionary principles, nor yet a program of anarchy. It does not promote strife and war, but aims at peace and unity. It seeks not to set the mother against her daughter nor the father against his son, but fosters the fraternal spirit whereby the human race is regarded as one great ‘brotherhood.’  It does not seek to drag down the natural man, but to improve and uplift him. It advocates education and cultivation and appeals to ‘the best that is within us.’  It aims to make this world such a comfortable and congenial habitat that Christ’s absence from it will not be felt and God will not be needed. It endeavors to occupy man so much with this world that he has no time or inclination to think of the world to come. It propagates the principles of self-sacrifice, charity and benevolence, and teaches us to live for the good of others, and to be kind to all. It appeals strongly to the carnal mind and is popular with the masses, because it ignores the solemn facts that by nature man is a fallen creature, alienated from the life of God, and dead in trespasses and sins, and that his only hope lies in being born again.”

Arthur W. Pink’s book, Satan and His Gospel, is available for Kindle, at a nominal cost, here.